As in all areas, there is a developmental process in spelling that children go through in order to improve their spelling and become confident and accurate spellers.
The child uses scribbles, letters, and letter-like forms and shows a preference for uppercase letters.
There is no understanding of phoneme-grapheme correspondence.
The child’s writing shows a lack of understanding of conventions of print such as spaces between words and left to right progression of writing.
Developing an understanding of GPCs and attempting to use them
Use phonemes that are most obvious – initial and final (wt for went) or initial/medial/final (bab for baby)
Whole word with 2 or 3 letters mostly consonants (ktn for kitten)
Choose GPCs on the basis of the sound of a word rather than conventional spelling patterns (wen for when, wich for witch)
Mostly represent the phonemes in a word (necst for next, peepl for people)
Alternative graphemes insecure (ai, ay, a-e, eigh, a, ey)
Write as they speak (fink for think, apsolootlee for absolutely)
Move from sounds to structures
Use graphemes to represent all consonant and vowel phonemes with vowels in all syllables (enchanted, castle for castle)
May still over-focus on the sound of words and misunderstand word boundaries (curry door for corridor)
Beginning to use other strategies – knowledge of common letter patterns, critical features of words (silent letters, double consonants) and making analogies
A growing bank of known words
Aware of the many patterns and rules of the English spelling system, including uncommon patterns and irregular spellings (ceiling, pleasure)
Generalise and apply to unfamiliar words
Use prefixes and suffixes
Use a range of strategies
Aware when a word does not look right
Have a large bank of known words
Some children are not successfully developing through these stages of spelling development and too many remain stuck at the phonetic or transitional stage.
We need a clear understanding of what children need to ensure that they progress and develop the skills they need to make them independent and proficient spellers.